Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tea Review - Mandela by NYA TEA

I had the pleasure of meeting Kai Oredugba of NYA TEA at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas last week and I have to say - he is one cool dude. I then turned my attention to their teas and instantly fell in love with many of them, one of them being DUBA The Mandela. This rooibos blend smelled divine and I knew I had to have some; thankfully, Kai gave me a sample of  the blend. I told him that I wanted to marry the blend and asked if that was crazy to say. He said no. While preparing it today, I could instantly smell orange and cloves as the hot water came in contact with it. When I finally tried my first cup, I was completely blown away by the simple yet complex taste. This rooibos blend is the BEST I've ever tried - a smashing blend of rooibos, orange peel, clove, cardamom, coconut, pink pepper, and flavour. The tea blend before preparation smells heady, exotic, and full of fruit flavour. The taste of the tea is fruity with a hint of a caramel like aftertaste. All of the ingredients blend so well that it comes at you all at once without being overpowering, almost like in layers that you don't even know are there. The mouth feel is inviting, cozy, and year long satisfaction. Since rooibos has no caffeine, you can enjoy this blend all day. You don't need to add any kind of sweetener to this blend - just prepare and enjoy. I look forward to ordering more of their teas - these guys know what they're doing when it comes to tea!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tea Review - Twinings New Zealand Breakfast Blend

Leave it to me to order a tea straight from New Zealand.

As much as I do enjoy several teas from Twinings, I had no idea that they created a blend just for the country of New Zealand. When I did locate it, however, I immediately whipped out my credit card and placed my order, all the while wondering if I would actually receive it. After weeks of patiently waiting, my box arrived and several hours later, I had my first cup of Twinings New Zealand Breakfast - much thanks to Products from New Zealand!

Don't let the name fool you - this tea can be enjoyed all day long without worrying if the caffeine will keep you awake. I enjoyed this tea two hours before bed and when I did go to sleep, there were no caffeinated problems. This tea is subtle and delicious with every sip and thank goodness I ordered an 80 bag box - I've been drinking at least a bag or two every day. The tea has a smoky start, much like a Lapsang Souchong, then finishes with a bit of Earl Grey, leaving your palate refreshed and quite happy. The tea "rolls" well with a soft mouthfeel - no harshness in the mouth or in your stomach. If you add honey to the tea, it only gets better as honey enhances a tea's flavour (IMHO). Although I do enjoy drinking it with honey, this tea is quite good by itself. This tea also goes well with Biscoff cookies!

If you order this tea through Products from New Zealand, be advised that it will take between 8 to 20 business days before it reaches you, unless if you live in New Zealand or nearby. If you enjoy a good hardy tea that can be consumed all hours of the day, New Zealand Breakfast is the one for you!

Side Note:

I'm six day away from attending my first World Tea Expo - two days of networking with other tea companies, enjoying panels regarding tea, and being around other tea lovers and enthusiasts. I never thought I would ever go, yet next week that dream will become a reality. I am going to write several blog posts regarding my experience there  - who knows what that will lead to?

Join the Leaf!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Tale of Two Women

The Door by Magda Szabo, printed through NYRB, was a challenging read for me. Not so much of the intellectual depth or the story itself, but rather the "relationship" between the two main women. Magda is a successful writer who is married and lives an affluent lifestyle. Due to the pressures of her and her husband's lives, they decide to hire Emerence, an older woman living in their village, as their housekeeper. Right from the beginning, Emerence comes across as a brash, unapologetic, and illiterate woman who could care less about the world. She has her small number of friends, her house filled with cats that no one may enter, and her housekeeping duties. Whenever someone tries to show compassion toward her, she lashes out with vitriolic words or she suddenly turns to stone and refuses to speak as punishment to the one who offended her. Yet, even with her bristling manner, Emerence shows her form of love toward Magda and Magda feels honoured to be the recipient of such a rare emotion.

I won't give all of the story away but like I said earlier, this was a challenging read for me. Although everyone seemed to eventually forgive Emerence for her ways, I found myself wondering about her power. Even when Magda tells her off and walks away, she is later wracked with guilt over what's she said to Emerence and then later feels that she deserved it. Everyone in the town knows of Emerence and willingly give her power to remain the same and never change. In all honesty, I wanted to stop reading the book several times yet I felt compelled to read it to see how it would end. I had to see how far the relationship between the two women would go. She refused care when people discovered that she had had a stroke and was living in filth. When someone tried to visit her, she yelled at them to go away and leave her alone. When Magda and her husband finally accepted Emerence's gift of a little dog statue, Emerence dusted it then threw it to the ground, causing it to shatter - this act later lead to peace in the household for quite some time. When a friend of hers committed suicide, Emerence advised Magda that she wouldn't have stopped her - if her friend was still lonely after being cared for and fed, then apparently she wanted to die. Sometimes, those who have nothing to lose can become the mirror of the world - they show the weakness of humanity in a truthful light with no apologies. Perhaps that was Emerence's job but then again, I know she wouldn't have cared less.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Down Below to Madness

Ever since I read her collection of short stories published through The Dorothy Project, I have been in love with Leonora Carrington. Her madness, her surreal visions - all of it. However, I returned to the book that got me interested in her from the beginning - Down Below, as printed through NYRB. It is here in which Carrington tells of her decent into madness after her lover, Max Ernst, was arrested by the Nazis in Provence. She traveled to Spain to escape the Nazis yet ended up in an institution. This slim yet powerful book made me shake my head several times as Carrington tells her audience of her "attempts" to Down Below in order to escape the doctor and his staff and their cruel ways. Although she finally was able to leave, I wondered if perhaps this experience changed her in some form. In describing her madness and coming out of it, was she exposed to something more than the rest of us? Whenever I viewed her paintings, I wondered if they were the result of her madness that transformed into a "better" view of her world. Her words seem so calm in describing her decent - almost like an artist describing his "masterpiece" to the world and knowing that perhaps, the world won't understand it.


Monday, May 28, 2018

A Weekend of Guilt

Every so often, I enjoy reading what I like to call a "quiet novel". The characters spend their days contemplating their acts and when something tragic does occur, it is muted and subdued yet still powerful. Bernhard Schlink's The Weekend is one of those novels. I was first introduced to his work while watching the film The Reader (never read the book - I know, I know) and I fell in love with the tragically beautiful story. The Weekend kept me gripped within its story as the ending came with a sense of "hope" for all of the characters.

Jorg has finally been released after spending 24 years in jail for being part of the infamous Baader-Meinhof group, as his sister Christiane prepares a weekend celebration for him. Friends and loved ones will spend the weekend with their long lost friend, yet all is not right under the seemingly calm surface of the country weekend. Truths finally come into the light, most of them painful, while emotions will flare as the past is brought in as a guest. At the center of it all is Jorg, who merely wants to reconnect with the outside world and try to seek out his new place in life. However, there are those who wish for him to return to his past life, one filled with loud voices, murders, and actions carried out in the name of an idea of a supposedly better world.

Schlink's writing reminded me of W. G. Sebald - quiet, thoughtful, yet no less compelling. I found myself sitting with the group and wondering if his friends truly saw him as their friend or a symbol of something they despised and secretly (or not so secretly) adored. While others stood in the back to watch the parade go by, Jorg was in the middle of it. I felt sorry for him - after being released, Schlink describes him as a broken down older man. Has the parade moved on without him, or did it silently wait for him to be released? And if it did, does he truly want to be a part of it again or just walk away?


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

To Fight The World, One Must Look Within

Although I'd heard of Pema Chodron, this is the first time I've ever read her work. When I finished reading When Things Fall Apart, published through Shambhala Publications, I repeatedly said, "Wow." This book is for anyone, not just Buddhists, because the message is simple: when things fall apart, look within to find the "answer".

These times are filled with much running around, constant feeding of information, and the desire to want more and more. Yet, we also suffer from depression, anxiety, fears, worries, "bad luck", everything. We think our lives are perfect until we lose a job, our spouse or partner decides to leave us, or unwanted and disturbing thoughts begin to creep into our minds and make us doubt ourselves. So, what do we do when things fall apart?

For some of us, the answer is talk with friends, go on retail therapy, alcohol or drugs, mindless sex, or anything else that would allow us to enjoy a sort of escapism - a feeling of pleasure from so much pain. Yet, as Chodron writes, what if we realized that pain COULD be pleasure? What if rather than running away from our fears and pain, we actually looked at it as a sense of pleasure in that it may teach us something about ourselves? Rather than run from the loneliness, we embrace it and see it for what it is, then let it go because we are stronger than that?

This book had me nodding YES so many times - her words are simple yet they carry a deeper meaning. In order to fight the battle of the world, we must look within for the strength. We alone have the power to look at our fears and darkness and see them for what they truly are. We must be still in order to move. We must be silent in order to hear. We must show compassion to ourselves and then to others. It may be easier said than done but when I honestly began showing compassion toward myself and others, I felt a shift. It was "moving mountains" but it was enough to get my attention and to make me want to continue doing it.

Thank you for your words, Pema Chodron. I truly do appreciate them.

Ex Libris.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Five of Cups

She wanted to get away. Drop everything and just run. She could feel her pulse racing as the thoughts continued to pound in her mind. Run away, run away, run away. She closed her eyes and told herself that it was only a dream, that people who run are those who needed to calm down and focus. She opened her eyes and looked around her living room, then began to talk with herself.
"The Five of Cups," she told herself, "is a powerful card. It tells me, now, that I look for the things I don't have rather than the things I already have. The one man who didn't want me. The job I should have taken. The friends I desperately wanted. The books I didn't publish. Instead, I have a wonderful partner in my life, the three books I've already published, the friends who take me as I am, and the chance to breathe in a forest on Saturdays." She leaned back in her couch and took in her surroundings. Silent books, ready for her to read them. Photography she loved to collect. Already calm emotions that needed to be acknowledged. She raided her eyes to the ceiling and thought of walking along a train track with one bag, one bag only. One step followed by another with the same problems tied to her neck. She wanted release and freedom and found it suffocating that she even wanted such a thing. She opened her hand and looked at the crumpled Five of Cups card that was determined to imprint her skin.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dear, Dear Leonora

I first heard about Leonora Carrington (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011)  through New York Review of Books - they were about to release one of her non fiction books and, given the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. Although I didn't read that book (yet), I was still fascinated with Carrington - who was she? What did she do? What did she find important in her life? On a whim, I finally purchased a copy of the book The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington through The Dorothy Project and devoured it. Carrington, being a part of the Surrealist Movement among so many other things, was a writer who was before her time. Her words seduced and haunted me and all I kept thinking was, "I wish I had met her."

After reading the first story titled The Debutante, I stared at the cover's image then said, "Hmmm. Okay, then!" The Debutante is the story a young woman who befriends a hyena at the Zoo, then coerces it to take her place at a party so that she can read in her room. Complete with the hyena eating the young woman's maid and placing her face on top of hers, this story made me fall in love with Carrington -I have a bad habit of falling in love with fellow creatives. Once there, the book leads you by the hand and takes you to a world far more dreamlike and macabre than you could ever imagine. The people are mad yet they like it as they stuff themselves with food that is most peculiar. Trees will talk and rip themselves out of the ground. Corpses offer themselves to be ridden through a dense forest. Winged beings that barely resemble humans howl at the moon and drink "red". People transforming themselves into horses and back and again and back. 

As I finished up the book this morning, my thoughts continued to reflect on the fact that mostly everyone in her stories were either mad or about to go mad. Yet, the madness that is portrayed does not seem to be life threatening (unless if you are a Queen) nor harmful. The madness here feels as the norm in this world - to be mad is to be understood. To be mad is to see the beauty of it all without question and if you do question, it just means that you GET IT. of course, these are my own opinions but DAMN, I love her version of madness. Her words and images are truly astounding and I feel at a loss because I will read something else rather than more of her work. However, absence makes the heart grow fonder, or perhaps it will be eaten by a large black bird. 

I almost splurged and purchased every book related to her last night. I haven't done that since my introduction to Ian McEwan. Still Leonora Carrington has a place in my heart, nestled right next to Clarice Lispector, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Iain Pears, Edna St. Vincent Millay and many many others. 

To end this review, I want to quote my all time favourite line from this book. Although I write dark fantasy, this line struck me as horrifically beautiful:

"You can't love anyone until you have drawn blood and dipped in your fingers and enjoyed it."

Leonora Carrington is my Goddess of Surrealism and Madness. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

The River Before

The first time I saw him, he was naked and lying on the banks of the river. I was on a walk with several friends when we spotted him and rushed over. As we ran, I knew he was dead and I wasn't a friend of Death. By the time we were a foot away from him, the man slowly got up and stared at us with eyes that I'd never seen before. They were blue and yet with a hint of mud to them. His pale skin held a slight twinge of blue that swirled around like waves. We stopped in our tracks as he raised a hand to us and smiled. His short black hair was still wet as it stuck out in all directions from his head. He then saw my face and walked towards me. I felt my heart beating rapidly as he came towards me and my so called friends moved away to give him room. He asked me my name and I told him with a shaky voice.
"No," he said, "what is the name that the River gave you?" I told him that I had no other name, to which he reached out to touch my hand. I did not flinch as his warm watery hand made contact with my suddenly dry skin. His eyes studied me and soon, I felt a warm wash flow through me. One of my friends asked him if he was alright, to which he replied that he had come from the River Before. He looked at my friends with a calm gaze then returned his focus on me. The blue muddy eyes welcomed me into his soul. Thankfully, my friends were all dreamers - one asked if the River Before was a beautiful place. He, still focused on me, traced a line down my arm as he said that the River Before is too blue to behold - a place for his kind to drink and rest. I then asked for his name. "Silt," he said with a grin. Another friend asked if he wanted to come with us for clothes and shelter. Just then, others came running up to our group and Silt in amazement. A man yelled that Silt had no business being naked around here and that if he came quietly, they would "take care" of him. I stood in front of him and said that he was coming home with us. I could feel Silt's breath on my neck and knew that my choice was a sound one. The other people looked at us with a mixture of disgust, fear, and a little wonder as they slowly walked away. Silt came with us.
He stayed with me and taught me the ways of the River Before. His body could change colours on a whim - clear blue like his home, muddy as the food he ate, and clear like the dreams he spoke of. His eyes showed the equal of blue and brown when he laughed with me. When he touched me as a man touches a woman and his lips brushed against mine, I saw the River Before and his people. His body smelled of pure rain water mingled with freshly turned earth. One day, after so many others passed, Silt asked if I wanted to go home with him. I asked if this meant that I would die, to which he laughed and said no. We returned to the bank where we first found him and he slowly removed my clothes. I then removed his and, after sharing a deep kiss, we walked into the River. As the cold waters covered my body inch by inch, I began to feel fear until Silt squeezed my hand and said to not be afraid. I nodded as the river covered my head and I gasped for breath, yet Silt continued to hold my hand as we slowly walked through the muddy water. I saw nothing, nothing . . . until I saw the bluest blue, clear and welcoming. Warm and happy. I saw others like him swimming along, all like him. All dreamt from the River Before. When they saw us, they waved and welcomed us home.

My name is Tide. I am of the River Before.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

THOSE People

(Cafe Eclectic - Harbor Town Memphis)

I see them everywhere. THOSE people. They seem to meet up in packs, converse about whose house they'll be visiting later that day, and who will bring what craft beer. I watch them from behind my curtain of shyness, desperate to be a part of their world. They see more, experience more, and dress in ways I could never imagine. They wear clothes that make them look as though they just woke up from a perfect night in which nothing fell out of place. Black framed glasses with a careless attitude make me wonder if they wear them just as an accessory rather than for vision problems. I wanted in, I kept telling myself. I wanted into their world and their jokes that seemed to be private. I wanted to shop with them at the local grocery store, searching for the best apples. I wanted them to help me with my wardrobe and tell me how to put on my hemp lip gloss properly. I wanted to be invited to their houses to talk about my latest read over wine and cheese whose name I couldn't pronounce. I wanted to be like them and hate them within the same breath. And then, one day, one of them noticed the book I was reading and asked me if I liked it so far. I looked up from my book and noticed the face - clean and free of makeup, female sensitive with a hint of something earthy, short black hair, clothes that were made for her. I smiled and said yes and asked if she'd ever read it, to which she sat down next to me and told me (with a white teeth smile that proved she drank a lot of coffee) that her group had JUST finished reading it. Can you imagine the odds, I said with a smile. She continued her smile then asked if I was doing anything later - her friends were going over to Tom, Steve, Joan, Sarah's house for wine and watching French films. Book closed, grin even wider.